Normative perceptions and influential factors on sexual behavior among abstinent college students
Kembi, Folasade Adeola
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The purpose of this study was to understand how abstinent students perceive sexual behavior among college students, and to examine the effect of these perceptions on abstinence behavior. Furthermore, the study investigated the influential and supportive factors in the practice of abstinence, and sought suggestions on how abstinence can be encouraged among college students. Prevention of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) through safer sex and abstinence are the most effective approaches to control the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and unintended pregnancies. But research on abstinence among college students is sparse. Using the theory of normative social behavior (TNSB) and symbolic interactionism, in-depth qualitative interviews were conducted with 22 abstinent college students to understand their perceptions on sexual behavior of college students, the effect of the perception on them, and the underlying factors that influence and support abstinence behavior. Data from 16 of the 22 participants were analyzed using inductive analysis. Results showed that participants' perceived a high prevalence of sexual activity among college students. In spite of the perceived norm, they decided to be abstinent because of past relationships and previous experiences, religion, fear of negative consequences, and expectation of themselves and others. However, participants reported that they faced several challenges to remain abstinent, these included pressure of long term relationship, unfulfilled sexual desires and curiosity, loneliness, peer pressure, and negative media influence. They were able to cope with these challenges using their strong support system and influential others. Other coping strategies included personal boundaries to avoid compromising situations, group dating, religion, co-operative partners and avoidance of alcohol. Participants were influenced by family, friends, and youth leaders (injunctive norms); they were also influenced by group identity, in which they drew strength from people with similar values and beliefs through open communication and accountability to one another. Outcome expectations from abstinence included enhanced relationships, elimination of distractions, ability to be role models to peers and siblings, and future and present rewards. They expressed their views on sexual health education programs on college campuses and how it can be improved.